Exploring Escolta: A Virtual Tour of Old Manila

What to Expect in the New Escolta 

If you’ve ever been to the Philippines, you’re probably in awe of its pristine white sand beaches, colorful festivities, and warm, friendly people. While many adventure-seekers flock to the more popular destinations like Boracay and Palawan, you might want to explore the country’s colorful and intriguing history that’s just waiting to be discovered in one of Manila’s oldest, famous streets.

Planning to visit the country soon? Fly to Manila and take time to stroll around Escolta Street—and take lots of pictures! A mirrorless digital camera like the Canon EOS M5 or a point-and-shoot camera like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 is ideal for street photography along Escolta.

Formerly a business center and shopping hub for Filipinos, Escolta housed a lot of firsts in the Philippines: ice cream parlor, department store, movie house, and elevator. Home to magnificent Spanish-colonial architectural heritages made by acclaimed Philippine national artists, Escolta is perfect for shooting architectural photos and discovering the different hybrids of Filipino culture.

The street that was once Manila’s hustle and bustle is now becoming the place where art, food, music, architecture, photography, and history are celebrated. The time has come for the Queen of the Streets to regain its glory.

Architectural Heritage:

El Hogar

Built in 1914, El Hogar, which means “The Filipino Home,” was a wedding gift from a groom to his bride. Their love story was etched not only in the hearts of those who have witnessed it but also in the staircase of the building. Its façade features a beaux-arts style, specifically the arch at the entrance. The 101-year-old building is one of the oldest skyscrapers in Binondo, Manila.

First United Building

During the Spanish era, this building housed the old Manila Post Office, foreign consulates, and the famous Berg’s Department Store, which was one of the premier department stores in Manila. Its art deco is fascinating because of its geometric patterns that are shaped like boomerang chevrons. It won a best décor award in 1928 because of its modern yet cultural structure design.

Capitol Theater

Capitol Theater, one of the first movie theaters in the Philippines, was the famous hangout place for those who wanted to watch Hollywood films. If you walk along Escolta today, its signage is still visible, just minus the glitz and glamour of its glorious days but is still as nostalgic as ever.

Don Roman Santos Building

The marvelous columns, façade, and the vintage clock in the center arch are the focal points of the neoclassical building that was built in 1894. It’s this building that made me fall in love with the place—it’s reminiscent of the heritage buildings in Athens but with more details.

Art Centers:

Calvo Museum

Independent artists go to Escolta where they can express their love for art. If you’re into vintage items, visit the Calvo Museum where you can find old newspapers, movie posters, postcards, cassette tapes, and bottles that were used back in the 1940s. For just 1 USD, you can get a dose of Manila’s culture. Being a vintage fan, I went there a month ago, and I was just amazed by the collections in this museum.

Saturday X Future Market Space

An empty space in the first level of the First United Building is now a center of creativity for independent Filipino artists. The Saturday X Future Market Space is a monthly bazaar organized by independent artists and yuppies. You can shop for handmade crafts, stickers, tote bags, accessories, and even old Filipino currencies. You can also score rare vinyl finds here. On my first weekend in Manila, I got to visit the bazaar and went gaga over the vintage vinyl records!

First Building Community Museum

It’s the home of memorabilias from Sy Liang Teng, one of the respected entrepreneurs in Escolta. His possessions like refrigerators and telephones are displayed here. As someone who’s into vintage stuff, I’m impressed with the well-preserved appliances! When I visited the place, I also saw old receipts, book records, journals, and photos that sum up how Escolta has evolved through the years.

Food Hubs:

Escolta Ice Cream and Snacks

If you want to try Filipino-flavored ice cream and cheap meals, you should stop by Escolta Ice Cream and Snacks. Make sure to taste its delicious hamburger steak and boneless porkchop. Sold for around 4 USD, their meals already include rice, veggies, and a drink. After the meal, indulge in ice cream! My personal favorites are mango royale, buko pandan, and avocado. You can get these flavors for just less than 1 USD for each scoop. Not bad, eh?


Built in the 1950s, Savory is every Filipino family’s go-to dining place. It serves delicious and original chicken recipe and other mouth-watering Filipino dishes, too. Savory has several all over Manila, but it’s best to taste its kick-ass chicken at the Escolta branch where it all started.

Polland Hopia Cafe

If you plan on going to Manila, you have to taste hopia, which means “good pastry” in Chinese. It is bread stuffed with either pork or mung bean paste. You can find the first set-up hopia brand in Escolta, which is the Polland Hopia Café that sells freshly baked hopia. When I first saw the bread, it looked plain but when I took that first bite, it blew my mind! I ended up buying three boxes and ate them up at the hotel.

Escolta was once known as the Philippine version of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, as noted by a New York Times article. Indeed, it has a lot more to offer than just its history. Thanks to the persistence of independent Filipino artists and foreign tourists, it’s now gaining its old glory back. It may still be in the works, but I can see great things developing in Escolta. This is definitely one place you don’t want to miss the next time you fly to the Philippines.

Author Bio:

Raina Fadel is a blogger and freelance writer for Wikihow since 2014. She contributes articles related to DIY and other home improvement topics. She also writes for Adorama Learning Center. In addition she advocates earth friendly organization such as GreenPeace.